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Oil Barons Jump On New Finds In Africa, Ignoring Climate Justice Calls

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Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News

(GIN)—U.S. and U.K. oil explorers are making their moves on the Western Sahara, between Mauritania and Morocco, despite calls by thousands of climate justice activists worldwide to “keep the oil in the soil.”

Kosmos Energy, a U.S. oil and gas exploration firm, and Cairn Energy of the U.K., plan to use rights obtained in 2006 when Kosmos signed an agreement with Morocco’s state oil company. A drill ship is currently on its way from South Korea to begin the exploration.

The move outraged citizens of Western Sahara, a U.N. designated non-self-governing territory larger than the U.K. that was claimed by Morocco in 1975. A referendum on self-determination in Western Sahara has been on hold since 1991, when it was blocked by Morocco.

The Sahrawi Center for Media and Communication, an activist group of indigenous Sahrawi citizens of Western Sahara, in a letter to Kosmos’ senior VP William Hayes, condemned the drilling plans, calling them “illegal” for failing to obtain the consent of Western Saharans, “without them being consulted and benefiting from these business operations.”

Kosmos defended its actions by arguing that although it does not have the authorization of the Sahrawi, its activities will be beneficial to them.

“We believe that, if exploration is successful, responsible resource development in Western Sahara has the potential to create significant, long-term social and economic benefits for the people of the territory,” Kosmos wrote in a statement on the issue in February.

Meanwhile, U.K. oil barons Tullow and partners have discovered oil in the Turkana District of Kenya and on the coast. The World Bank has committed $50 million to the Kenyan government to provide technical assistance. By the company’s own admission, its fields cover one of the world’s most environmentally and culturally sensitive regions, where local employment among impoverished and isolated communities is a critical issue.

Last year, Tullow employed 100 permanent staff in Kenya, of which 70 percent were Kenyan nationals, but the company claimed to be employing more than 1,000. Most were subcontractors who receive less pay and less job security than full-time staff.

With basic literacy among the Turkana people at 7.2 percent, the majority of people in the district are excluded from training programs and from the few direct employment opportunities offered by oil drilling, according to Ikal Ang’elei, director of Friends of Lake Turkana, a local environmental organization.

As a result, the local people have largely been offered unskilled jobs, such as guards, sand mixers and cooks. Other opportunities, including transportation contracts, were snatched up by wealthy businessmen with the financial capital and political connections to supply vehicles for use.

At a conference this year of Oilwatch Africa, opponents of drilling urged African countries “to gradually phase out dependence on fossil fuels by exploring and adopting alternative renewable energy sources.”

Haiti: The Richest Country in the Western Hemisphere

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By Patrick Delices
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News


For decades, and up to this point, Haiti has had the inauspicious distinction of being labeled the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere despite its rich resources, along with its rich historical and cultural legacy. This lamentable economic reality in Haiti has overshadowed its richness, beauty and historical essence, along with the humility and humanity of its people. Haiti, the land of many beautiful mountains and people, is known for its extreme poverty and crime, not its rich cultural history and resources.

Haiti was once known as the “Pearl of the Antilles” because of its richness and natural beauty. Unfortunately, Haiti is now known for its earthquake, cholera outbreak, kidnapping, crime and, of course, poverty. However, during the colonial era, the wealth of Haiti surpassed that of all the British colonies in the Caribbean. Moreover, it was Haiti that augmented considerably the size, wealth and power of the United States by way of the Haitian Revolution, as evident in the Louisiana Purchase.

Despite its richness, Haiti has been plagued by extreme poverty and crime because of slavery, colonialism, imperialism, brutal dictators and puppet governmental leaders. According to the World Bank, “Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world (with a GNI per capita of $760 in 2012), with significant needs in basic services. Over half of its population of 10 million lives on less than $1 per day, and approximately 80 percent live on less than $2 per day.”

Moreover, the United States, the wealthiest nation in the world, ranks Haiti as “critical” in terms of crime and violence without taking into consideration that in terms of crimes and violence against humanity, no nation has surpassed the United States. Unscrupulously ridiculed for its poverty and crime, unlike the United States and Europe, Haiti is indeed the richest country in the Western Hemisphere, as evident in its most lucrative resource: its people.

I recently returned to the United States from a pilgrimage in Haiti with professor James Small of the World African Diaspora Union. In association with professor Bayyinah Bello and her organization, Fondasyon Felicitee, we were in Haiti to celebrate the 256th birthday of Napoleon’s master, Gen. Jean Jacques Dessalines, aka “Emperor Jacques I.” Born Sept. 20, 1758, Dessalines is considered the founding father of Haiti.

In our pilgrimage and celebration, we visited numerous historical and cultural sites in Haiti. For example, we visited Bois Caiman in Le Cap, where, Aug. 14, 1791, the Haitian Revolution was reignited by Boukman Dutty and Cecile Fatiman.

We also visited the area in Nord, Haiti, where the final battle of the Haitian Revolution, the Battle of Vertieres, took place Nov. 18, 1803. In this final battle, Napoleon yielded to his new master, Dessalines, and abandoned his quest for an empire in the New World, thus selling the Louisiana territory, which was about 529 million acres, for a song—approximately four cents an acre.

Furthermore, we visited the homes of Dessalines and his wife, Empress Marie-Claire Heureuse Felicite Bonheur. Lastly, we visited Sans-Souci and the Citadel, which were built, remarkably, during a time when Haiti stood alone as the only Black sovereign nation in the Americas in face of the constant threat of slavery, colonialism and global white supremacy. Sans-Souci, named after the West African-born Haitian Revolutionary leader Colonel Jean-Baptiste Sans-Souci, was the royal palace of King Henri I and Queen Marie Louise Coidavid of Haiti. A wonder of the world, the Citadel is the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere. It was first conceived by Dessalines and completed by Henri Christophe, King Henri I of Haiti, who, at a very young age, participated in the American Revolution.

Demonstrators 'Disrupt' St. Louis Symphony Singing a 'Requiem for Mike Brown'

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By Rebecca Rivas
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American


Just after intermission, about 50 people disrupted the St. Louis Symphony’s performance of Brahms Requiem on Saturday night, singing “Justice for Mike Brown.”

As symphony conductor Markus Stenz stepped to the podium to begin the second act of German Requiem, one middle-aged African-American man stood up in the middle of the theater and sang, “What side are you on friend, what side are you on?”

In an operatic voice, another woman located a few rows away stood up and joined him singing, “Justice for Mike Brown is justice for us all.” Several more audience members sprinkled throughout the theater and in the balcony rose up and joined in the singing.

Those in the balcony lowered white banners about 15 feet long with black spray-painted letters that said, “ Requiem for Mike Brown 1996-2014” and “Racism lives here,” with an arrow pointed to a picture of the St. Louis Arch. Another banner said, “Rise up and join the movement.”

Stenz stood stoically and listened to the demonstrators’ performance. Some onlookers were outraged and start spewing expletives. Others stood up and started clapping. Most seemed stunned and simply watched.

The singing only went on for about two minutes before the demonstrators started chanting, “Black lives matter.” They pulled up their banners and dropped red paper hearts over the edge of the balcony onto the main floor orchestra seats, which stated “Requiem for Mike Brown.” Then they all voluntarily marched out together and left the theater. While they marched out, they received a round of applause from many of the audience members – as well as the musicians on stage.

Outside, symphony administrators huddled together discussing the demonstration, expressing dismay. When asked if they wanted to comment, they said no. The demonstrators had purchased tickets to the concert.

The St. Louis American tracked down and interviewed the organizer of the event – Sarah Griesbach, 42, a white woman who lives in the Central West End. She said that the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teen who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, has opened her eyes to the inequalities that exist in St. Louis. She has been protesting since Brown was shot on Aug. 9.

“It is my duty and desire to try to reach out and raise that awareness peacefully but also to disrupt the blind state of white St. Louis, particularly among the people who are secure in their blindness,” Griesbach said.

Two weeks ago, she and another “middle-aged woman who wear our mom jeans pulled up way too high” held up a sign at a Cardinals game that said, “Racism lives here.” A pivotal moment for her was when people around them started chanting in response, “Hands up, don’t loot.”

She and her fellow protester Elizabeth Vega decided to try again at the symphony, which received a much warmer response. She believes that is because the audience was fairly diverse in ethnicity and age.

“There is an inclusivity that comes with that intellectual culture,” she said.

The group of demonstrators was also a mix of African Americans, Latino and white residents – from college kids to college professors, she said. There were “representatives” from Clayton, Webster Groves, South St. Louis, Central West End and Ferguson. Although she lives in the Central West End, her children attend school in Clayton. As a mother, she has been deeply affected by Brown’s death.

“This cannot be just a Ferguson issue,” she said.

The St. Louis American got in touch with Erika Ebsworth-Goold, publicist for the St. Louis Symphony, on Sunday afternoon. She said the musical piece that the demonstrators chose was appropriate because it is meant to “lift up the people who were left in time of tragedy.”

She did not feel the group interrupted the performance but “delayed” it, she said.

“The people audience had respect for what we were do at the symphony, and we are appreciative of that,” she said.

Organizer Elizabeth Vega said the group prefers to call it a “disruption,” rather than a delay.

“Many of us are artists ourselves, so we were very cognizant to not interrupt the performance after it had already began,” Vega said. “But we still wanted it to be a disruption that left people with a seed of thought.”

Geoffrey Holder: Death of a Renaissance Man

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By Herb Boyd
Special to the NNPA


NEW YORK (NNPA) – His voice arrived first, deep and sonorous, prefiguring a man of enormous life and vitality, and such was the often imposing but impressive visage and physique of Geoffrey Holder, who many remember mostly from his promotion of Seven-Up “Uncola” commercials.  But the multitalented Holder was much more than a pitchman.  This artist with almost magical gifts died Sunday, Oct. 5 at this home in New York City.  He was 84.

According to Charles M. Mirotznik, a spokesman for the family, Holder’s death was the result of complications from pneumonia.

Standing 6 feet 6 inches, Holder commanded practically every room he entered, and the niches not covered by his giant-like presence were filled with his resonant voice and laughter, his flamboyant style and persona, something magisterial, je ne sais quoi.

If viewers were reminded of the Jolly Green Giant or Mr. Clean from the many films and Broadway productions, it was understandable inasmuch as he had that same powerful countenance but embellished by a graceful sense of movement and artistic savoir faire.

Even the swerving arc of his autograph provides some semblance of his absolutely total absorption in the theater, dance and art as writer and dance authority Jennifer Dunning captures so well her biography.

“Who is Geoffrey Holder?” Dunning asks rhetorically in the preface to her book.  “He paints and photographs, but he has never wanted to be called simply an ‘artist.’ He dances and choreographs, but he has no desire to be categorized as a ‘dancer and choreographer.’  He designs costumes and has directed shows on Broadway, but do not call him a ‘man of the theater.’”

Through these things he chose not to be called, we gather some idea of the complexity of his life, the expansiveness of his endeavors and successes.

“Life is strange and sweet and divine,” Holder told Dunning during one of her many interviews with him as he folded his long frame into a delicate white chair in the garden corner carved out his wife, the actress and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, in their loft in Soho.  She notes that Holder’s paintings are everywhere.

And Holder throughout his remarkably productive career seemed to be everywhere—on stage, on film, in the studio, galleries, and anywhere a convivial ensemble was ready a night of gaiety and cultural chit chat.

Whether surrounded by a gaggle of his admiring friends or strolling the streets of Manhattan that he dearly loved and became fond of many years ago when he arrived from his homeland in Trinidad, Holder was immediately recognized and onlookers were not sure if it was Punjab from the movie “Annie,” or Baron Samedi from the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die.”  Or he could have been, for some of his older fans, the principal dancer in the Met’s production of “Aida.”

If left to him, he was Geoffrey Holder, born August 1, 1930 to parents who had migrated from Barbados to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.  He attended Queen’s Royal College and at very early age began demonstrating his prowess as a dancer in his brother Boscoe’s company.  It was from this older brother that he got his first lessons in choreography and design.

Given his height and agility he easily stood out in a troupe and got the eye of dance maven Agnes de Mille in the early 1950s during a performance in the Virgin Islands.  She invited Holder to New York City and subsequently he was hired to teach at the famed Katherine Dunham School of Dance.  After a brief stint as the lead dancer at the Met, he made his Broadway debut in “House of Flowers” with book and lyrics by Truman Capote and music by Harold Arlen.  Here, he met another dancer, Carmen de Lavallade, who became his lifelong companion.  Their only child was Leo.

With excellent reviews from his performances on Broadway, he appeared in a series of films, beginning with All Night Long, a British film in 1962; five years later, he was featured in Doctor Dolittle; then he was the sorcerer in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex; and there was his voodoo turn in the Bond movie mentioned above in which he was also the choreographer.

For the most part Holder appeared to be caught between two very jealous muses: dance and painting.  And they both were somewhat pacified when he was the choreographer, set and costume designer as he did on many occasions, but with particular panache in 1968 with The Prodigal Prince for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  According to Kina Poon, an assistant editor at Dance Magazine, this was his love letter to Haiti.  “I wanted to do the same with Haitian folklore as we with Greek mythology,” he told her.  “I revere Haitian art and I treat it with the same sense of grandeur and respect.”

Grandeur is certainly a word that is evoked when visiting a gallery of his paintings.  Most impressive are his study of the human form and his nudes, male and female, are full of the freedom and abandon that characterized Holder’s restless spirit.

To list even a portion of his awards is daunting, but it’s hard to ignore the stunning work he in The Wiz, which earned Tony’s for direction and design.  In both categories were first for a Black man.  One of his most spectacular productions was Timbuktu, which choreographed and directed, featuring Eartha Kitt.  Here again, the full arsenal of his artistic genius unfolds.

“Geoffrey is someone who speaks with movements and with images more than some other people might,” said Clifton Taylor, a lighting designer who worked with Holder in several productions, including a revival of The Prodigal Prince four years ago.  “Another choreographer might say ‘This is what I want the lights to look like.’  Geoffrey is really about giving images to people, both the dancers and the designers.  He’ll say, ‘We’re in a village at night.  It’s stars and it’s gorgeous.’ He’ll go on in kind of rhapsodic prose. ‘Dahling,’ right?  And then we go with it.”

Then, to express his appreciation, might come that drawn out but melodious “maarvelous,” in a voice as inimitable as his life and legacy.

Obama: Let's Finish the Unfinished Work

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By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief


WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Though the U.S. has made tremendous progress since the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, there is plenty of unfinished work to be done in order to make the nation a more perfect union, President Barack Obama says.

“Our high school graduation rate is at a record high, the dropout rate is falling, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before,” Obama told those attending Saturday night’s Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner. “Last year, the number of children living in poverty fell by 1.4 million – the largest decline since 1966.  Since I took office, the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration rate has gone down by about 10 percent.  That’s the first time they’ve declined at the same time in more than 40 years.  Fewer folks in jail.  Crime still going down.

“But our work is not done when too many children live in crumbling neighborhoods, cycling through substandard schools, traumatized by daily violence.  Our work is not done when working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate, even as corporate profits soar; when African-American unemployment is still twice as high as white unemployment; when income inequality, on the rise for decades, continues to hold back hardworking communities, especially communities of color.  We’ve got unfinished work.”

Speaking just days after Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., the administration’s point man on race, submitted his resignation, Obama spoke more directly about race than perhaps anytime since he has been in office.

In past CBC appearances, Obama was sometimes viewed as lecturing CBC members about personal responsibility while failing to do the same to White audiences. In his speech before the CBC dinner Saturday night, Obama dropped his reluctance to speak boldly about the racial atmosphere in America.

“… We still have to close these opportunity gaps,” he said. “And we have to close the justice gap – how justice is applied, but also how it is perceived, how it is experienced.  Eric Holder understands this. That’s what we saw in Ferguson this summer, when Michael Brown was killed and a community was divided.  We know that the unrest continues. And Eric spent some time with the residents and police of Ferguson, and the Department of Justice has indicated that its civil rights investigation is ongoing.

“Now, I won’t comment on the investigation. I know that Michael’s family is here tonight. I know that nothing any of us can say can ease the grief of losing a child so soon. But the anger and the emotion that followed his death awakened our nation once again to the reality that people in this room have long understood, which is, in too many communities around the country, a gulf of mistrust exists between local residents and law enforcement.”

Obama spoke to the everyday experiences of being a Black man in America.

“Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement, guilty of walking while black, or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness. We know that, statistically, in everything from enforcing drug policy to applying the death penalty to pulling people over, there are significant racial disparities. That’s just the statistics.  One recent poll showed that the majority of Americans think the criminal justice system doesn’t treat people of all races equally. Think about that. That’s not just blacks, not just Latinos or Asians or Native Americans saying things may not be unfair. That’s most Americans.”

It is unclear what poll the president was referencing. Most polls show a majority of Whites feel the criminal justice system is color blind. For example, a Pew Research Center survey last year found that 70 percent of Blacks feel they are treated less fairly than Whites in their dealings with police. Only 37 percent of Whites said they think Blacks are treated less fairly by police.

The mistreatment of African Americans harms Whites as well as Blacks, the president said.

“And that has a corrosive effect – not just on the black community; it has a corrosive effect on America,” Obama said. “It harms the communities that need law enforcement the most. It makes folks who are victimized by crime and need strong policing reluctant to go to the police because they may not trust them. And the worst part of it is it scars the hearts of our children. It scars the hearts of the white kids who grow unnecessarily fearful of somebody who doesn’t look like them. It stains the heart of black children who feel as if no matter what he does, he will always be under suspicion.  That is not the society we want.  It’s not the society that our children deserve. Whether you’re black or white, you don’t want that for America.”

Three countries – Russia, Iran and Egypt – have cited America’s mistreatment of African Americans as evidence of U.S. hypocrisy on human rights.

Obama retorted, “…As I said this week at the United Nations, America is special not because we’re perfect; America is special because we work to address our problems, to make our union more perfect [a reference to the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution]. We fight for more justice. We fight to cure what ails us.  We fight for our ideals, and we’re willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short.  And we address our differences in the open space of democracy – with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and religion; and with an unyielding belief that people who love their country can change it.  That’s what makes us special – not because we don’t have problems, but because we work to fix them.  And we will continue to work to fix this.”

Obama, under fire to the limited scope of My Brother’s Keeper, which targets Black and Latino males, said this week he will announce My Brother’s Keeper Community Challenge, a program to develop strategies to help all youth.

“And we’re not forgetting about the girls, by the way.  I got two daughters – I don’t know if you noticed. African American girls are more likely than their white peers also to be suspended, incarcerated, physically harassed.  Black women struggle every day with biases that perpetuate oppressive standards for how they’re supposed to look and how they’re supposed to act.  Too often, they’re either left under the hard light of scrutiny, or cloaked in a kind of invisibility.

“So in addition to the new efforts on My Brother’s Keeper, the White House Council for Women and Girls has for years been working on issues affecting women and girls of color, from violence against women, to pay equity, to access to health care.  And you know Michelle has been working on that. Because she doesn’t think our daughters should be treated differently than anybody else’s son. I’ve got a vested interest in making sure that our daughters have the same opportunities as boys do.”

Obama ended his 23-minute speech, which was interrupted 34 times by applause, with an appeal for greater voter participation in November.

“Because people refused to give in when it was hard, we get to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act next year,” President Obama stated. “Until then, we’ve got to protect it.  We can’t just celebrate it; we’ve got to protect it.  Because there are people still trying to pass voter ID laws to make it harder for folks to vote. And we’ve got to get back to our schools and our offices and our churches, our beauty shops, barber shops, and make sure folks know there’s an election coming up, they need to know how to register, and they need to know how and when to vote.”

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